Last July 2016, I started a studio unit with the help of Kevin, and put up a theme on ‘gentrification’. There were arguments raised that ‘gentrification’ is inevitable, an economic necessity. One of our studio critics kept raising that point. I was unable to continue with the studio unit in the second half of the program, so I am now talking about ‘gentrification’ away from the studio.
The background to how we were led to agreeing on this theme came from two routes:
- Previous architectural design thesis studio programs
- Our interest in activism and community-based issues (Kevin through his work and I through mine separately)
My thoughts now are also about the ‘east and west perception of gentrification’. I had a few chat sessions with my brother generally on the ‘east and west philosophy’ of doing things and the fact that the west divides and break-up elements to control and govern in a divide and rule manner. In terms of defining ‘gentrification’, for the West it is clearly depicted and explained in this article, that ‘gentrification represents a geography of inequality’. The dislocation of communities and entities as the cost of real estate rise and being taken over by those that see community and social development purely as money-making endeavour. There is a flow of people having to migrate or relocate from one area to another.
People in the East would be confused about the ideas of ‘inequality and loss of identity’ as it means adopting models of ‘regression’, if it is not profit-making. Why can’t we make money and get jobs? Then the question counter-acts with ‘ why must we make profit this way?’ If the money made by big-time developers is channeled to the authorities and that comes back to the community, how will it help? How will it be done / implemented? But the East had not always been like that. The East was not pre-occupied all the time with ‘transaction’ unlike the West.
We are so used to just focusing on one thing and not the entire system. Solving in a piece-meal manner and architects designing only inside their site boundaries and also blinker their 180 Degrees sight contextually. Subsequently architects also put on the blinkers when it comes to designing with empathy. This is not a new concept, designing with empathy. It is whether you wish to design better or not.
Coming back to ‘gentrification’, the domain of real estate is far from the domain of architecture and urban design. Inter-disciplinary is something we must strive for and it is not an option. Architects cannot afford to work in silos anymore. The East unlike the West has a different philosophy entrenched in inter-disciplinary. The concept of dwelling for the East has always been with community and is not just behind the walls and fences. It is no different for architects to go back to their Eastern roots of inter-disciplinary.
I am making a case for a design thesis studio where we introduced inter-disciplinary work and insight. We incubate the ideas and the students studied and design to come up with ideas. Is this not the type of architects you would want in the future?